“Texas violated voting rights law during redistricting, retiring state GOP senator says in sworn court statement”

Texas Tribune:

In a sworn declaration submitted as part of an ongoing federal court challenge, a senior Republican state senator with redistricting experience said he believes his party violated federal voting laws when it drew new boundaries for state Senate District 10 in the Fort Worth area.

“Having participated in the 2011 and 2013 Senate Select Redistricting Committee proceedings, and having read the prior federal court decision regarding SD10, it was obvious to me that the renewed effort to dismantle SD 10 violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution,” state Sen. Kel Seliger said in a declaration signed in November.

The statement from the Amarillo Republican emerged this week as part of a dayslong hearing before a three-judge panel considering a lawsuit that claims the district was intentionally reconfigured to discriminate against voters of color in Tarrant County.

Under the map passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, some Black and Hispanic populations previously in District 10 were split into two other districts with majority-white electorates. The Black and Hispanic voters who remain in the newly drawn District 10, in urban areas of south Fort Worth, were lumped in with several rural, mostly white counties to the south and west that drive up the district’s population of white eligible voters while diminishing the number of voters of color.

A group of plaintiffs — including state Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, who represents the current SD-10 — is asking the federal judges to throw out the new district ahead of the March primaries.

Seliger chaired the Senate’s redistricting committee last decade, redrawing the state’s maps following the 2010 census when a similar attempt to reshape the district was found to be discriminatory. A federal court in Washington, D.C., ruled in 2012 that lawmakers had discriminated against voters of color in dismantling the district and cracking apart their communities. As a result, the Legislature went back to restore the district’s configuration.

Seliger affirmed his declaration in a video deposition taken earlier this month — portions of which were played in open court in El Paso this week — during which he also said that “pretextual reasons” were given for how political boundaries were decided during the 2021 redistricting process.

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Feb. 2 Event: “How America’s Electoral System Benefits Authoritarianism, and How We Can Fix it”

Registration details:

Join Protect Democracy, Unite America, and R Street on Wednesday, February 2 at 12:00pm ET/ 9:00am PT for a discussion panel on how features of the U.S. electoral system are exacerbating America’s authoritarian threat. While those concerned about U.S. democracy justifiably focus on the current far-right campaigns to curtail voting rights nationwide and interfere with election administration, the roots of antidemocratic extremism run much deeper. A new report by Protect Democracy argues that, unlike most other major democracies, the U.S. electoral system—single-member plurality—is structurally and uniquely advantaging authoritarianism: diluting minority voting power, weakening competition between the major parties, preventing an electorally viable new center-right party, and rewarding extreme factions at the ballot box.

This briefing will address the following questions:
>How is America’s electoral system anomalous?
>What challenges does this system present to democratic resilience?
>How can we structurally reverse the authoritarian tide?

At a time when it’s easy to feel bleak about the state of our democracy, our panelists will explain why they’re still hopeful.

When: Wednesday, February 2 at 12:00pm ET/ 9:00am PT

Speakers:

Didi Kuo, Associate Director for Research and Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, Stanford University

Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow, Political Reform Program, New America

Nick Troiano, Executive Director, Unite America

Matt Germer, Resident Elections Fellow, Governance Program, R Street

Moderator:

Grant Tudor, policy advocate for Protect Democracy and author of Advantaging Authoritarianism: The U.S. Electoral System & Antidemocratic Extremism

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“Retired lawyer wrote the book, literally, on corporations entertaining politicians”

Congrats to Ken Gross on a well-deserved retirement! Roll Call exit interview:

When Ken Gross embarked on building a political law practice at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in the 1980s, most firms represented either Republican or Democratic candidates. He envisioned a nonpartisan venture, catering mostly to corporate clients, and helped spearhead  a model that grew more common on K Street as campaign finance and ethics regulations expanded.

Along with a roster of company clients, the former associate general counsel of the Federal Election Commission also worked for some candidates, including simultaneous representation of Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Republican presidential candidate and Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.

“Both of them were fine with it,” Gross recalled. “I just don’t think you could do that anymore.”

Gross, who joined the firm’s Washington office in 1986, carried out his plans for the practice over the next 35 years, representing mostly companies and trade associations as they navigated the changing legal landscape for political action committees, lobbying, government ethics and gift rules. Longtime clients have included Johnson & Johnson and American Express, among others. He also represented all of Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent Mike Bloomberg’s New York City mayoral bids.

As of this month, Gross is officially retired after hitting his firm’s mandatory retirement age of 70. He will remain connected to Skadden on “pro bono emeritus” status, which affords him access to an office in a separate part of the firm’s building near the White House. 

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ELB Podcast Episode 3:5: Bart Gellman, Jessica Huseman, and Margaret Sullivan: What Can (and Should) Journalists Do to Prevent Election Subversion and Another January 6?

On Season 3, Episode 5 of the ELB Podcast: How can journalists best report on stories about the risks to election integrity in the United States?Should journalists be taking sides between the forces of those supporting and opposing free… Continue reading